voteAll politicians are the same. Voting never changes anything. Politics is corrupt, the media are constantly lying, and big business decides everything.

We get comments like this every day here on Debating Europe. It’s clear that many citizens no longer trust politicians, democratic institutions, or mainstream media. Young people in particular are often disenchanted with our political systems, feeling that their votes don’t matter, and that their voice isn’t being heard.

So, how can we change things? How can politicians earn back their legitimacy among voters who no longer trust the system? Could ‘disruptive’ new technologies hold the key? New ways of voting, interacting with politicians, and holding them to account? Or is it about old-fashioned politics: delivering what is promised, and listening to what voters want?

On 13 October 2016, Friends of Europe is holding their annual ‘State of Europe‘ high-level roundtable, bringing together senior policymakers, civil society representatives, and business leaders to discuss the future direction of the continent.

This 13th ‘State of Europe’ high-level roundtable will discuss the risks and the opportunities of disruptive change in four areas: economic models, social integration, leadership and geopolitics. It will look at how to make the EU more resilient to disruptive change, and how to regain the trust and confidence of European citizens.

Debating Europe will be at the event and will put YOUR questions to attendees.

Taking part in the event will be, amongst others:

• Andrej Babiš, Czech Finance Minister
• Konrad Szymański, Polish Minister for European Affairs
• Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs
• Kristalina Georgieva, European Commission Vice-President
• John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia, Amnesty International
• Julian King, EU Commissioner-designate for the Security Union
• Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International
• Julian Reichelt, Editor-in-Chief,

How can politicians earn back their legitimacy again? Can the EU take advantage of ‘disruptive technologies’ to enhance democracy at the European level, through greater transparency, accountability, and access? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Brian W. Tobin

75 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Michael Šimková

    They could start by actually following the law, ending corrupt practices such as taking bribes or well paid “consultant” positions from large corporations in exchange for tax breaks and favourable legislation, impunity for the powerful and well-connected, and by being responsive to the concerns of their electors.

  2. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    basterebbe applicare la Costituzione di ogni Paese , ridare sovranita politica ed economica ai popoli è tutto scritto li e ogni legge o Trattato che contrasta con le Costituzioni non andrebbero nè proposte nè applicate

    enough to apply the Constitution of each country, restore political and economic sovereignty to the people is all written them, and every law or treaty which contrasts with the Constitutions should be neither proposed nor implemented

  3. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    When unelected bureaucrats rule without answering to the people real politics becomes redundant, welcome to the EU.

  4. avatar
    Anti-EU Citizen

    They can’t earn it back after 25 years of ignoring people and cuttinget their living standards and wages.EU needS to be dismantled. ASAP!

  5. avatar
    Julia Hadjikyriacou

    Putting people & the environment first above profits. Making decisions via an ethical code that cannot be violated. Abolishing poverty. Tax the mega-rich not the working class and small businesses. Universal basic income. Interacting with politicians is a good idea, however not when the questions are cherry picked to suit the agenda they are following anyway. We can see when that happens then distrust increases.

  6. avatar
    Ana Fonseca

    Passando a servir as pessoas e não as corporações. Deixando de ter interesses escondidos e deixando de se servir dos esquemas das portas giratórias.

  7. avatar

    I’d like to quote Bladder “instant resignation and suicide springs to mind”

  8. avatar
    António Cabral

    Eu tenho para mim que que é serio, nunca vai para a política a partir de certo nível de responsabilidade alta. Como é que pode haver um debate sério, conclusivo, se para este debate trazem precisamente os políticos que são parte integrante do sistema ? Não pode, não devia. As conclusões só podem ser mais do mesmo.

  9. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    The “high-level roundtable” is a select pro EU group and nothing progressive will emerge. Invite the staunchest EU critics available and have a stimulating argument-not another stimulating lunch & photo session shaking hands. What do you expect?

  10. avatar
    Voula Thomacos-Lagonas

    Firstly by TELLING THE TRUTH about what they’ve done
    Secondly by resigning and GIVING BACK EVERYTHING THEY’VE TAKEN both illegally and as perks
    Finally THEY HAVE TO FACE THE LAW and THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM ….go to jail if they are GUILTY

  11. avatar
    Faddi Zsolt

    The world (and EU) has to be changed from it’s roots. Business and politics must be separated, and politics should take care of the citizens! Businessmen shouldn’t be allowed to be politicians!

  12. avatar
    Μάρκος Κουντουρούδας

    Follow the Ancient Athens Democracy Paradigm. Rounding replacement of every official in every position of authority in a fix time period. Construct little communities of 5.000 to 10.000 people, giving them exclusive powers to their elected authorities over selected sectors of local activity. Bigger formations of a sum of communities “peripheries”, with more coordination powers and less regional. Periodical vote over coordination matters. And at last, a small “Committee” with sovereign power over all peripheries, responsable for defence, foreign affairs and more crucial economic matters.

  13. avatar
    Katrin Mpakirtzi

    the bankers the money are stronger than them…. and society loose his happiness the smile..from depths and euromania

  14. avatar
    Eugenia Serban

    Only when it comes to elections and votes, politicians ask the people…….what they think……

  15. avatar
    Manuel Alegria

    not easy… all around we know all politicians for not doing their job, and they still all the same ones…
    They can promise anything, no one cares…

  16. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    “How can politicians earn back their legitimacy again?” Doesn’t that sound a weird question?

    “Legitimacy” is bestowed to them by the voters in a “democratic” free & fair election. If an election is rigged or undemocratic- all its politicians are illegitimate & “unauthorized”! No amount of “earning” will help!

    Does the DE hint that all EU top supranational politicians who were elected the “round about way” (supranational) – as not 100% legitimate?

    Maybe they meant- how will politicians measure up against the highest standards (since most do not do) of political leadership qualities like: integrity (adherence to moral and ethical principles) accountability, honesty, be of unquestionable sound moral character and more. And if they don’t measure up to the highest standards- they need to be replaced. A “fishy” person will never attain statesmanship.

    To enforce such criteria ALL need to pass a stringent political suitability test! Yet to be introduced!

  17. avatar
    Daniel Martins

    Direct Democracy, Semi-Direct Democracy, Anarchism, Democratic Confederalism, Libertariam Municipalism, or some other alternative progressive system.

    Why not have people actually participate in Politics, instead of “Professional Politicians”.

  18. avatar
    Lynne Warner

    By allowing each country to take care of its citizens before being forced to take care of migrants.

  19. avatar
    Frida Prodan

    All member countries of EU should have a referendum to determine if they want to stay in or exit. Then honor the result of the referendum & earn back respect, but listening to the people.

  20. avatar
    Francis Thompson

    Again?? dont waste peoples time with this nonsense. Or if all politicians dissapeared, or were all (from around the world) put on an island and told to fend for themselves. Maybe people, would once again be able to reconstruct and recover some of earths natural beauties, not being limited by backwards legislation or corruption!

  21. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    SIMPLE : I trust them if they tell : 1. We want to destroy crime and corruption and we are going to have independent police to fight corruption and independent organizations to deal with police corruption 2. Judicial independence 3. Religion , I think in the US Clinton’s and Obama don’t use religion to win election and their religion is good . In Europe we can’t trust politicians if they tell they are religious . I can trust them when they tell whey are atheists , they want to remove religion from schools and they want to stop financing religious organisations . In the EU religious groups use religion to sabotage elections , how ? They have spider network and usually one Christian party , they build a few more political parties but people don’t know they are together , after elections they create coalition and form government . Scam politics , but they have great success , they use spider network and they tell people how to vote , they use tactics to take maximal number mandates . You can’t trust politicians because you never know if they are members from the same network. 4. Energy lobby is financing big number politicians . I can trust politicians if they want to install solar panels and wind turbines . Some of the sabotage everything when they try to build solar and wind turbines .

  22. avatar

    “So, how can we change things?” You should know that most of this citizens of the EU, does not like the bunch of bureaucrats who decide, with the convenience of our politicians to force THIS citizens a debt with hyper tax when we are inside the EURO, who came from the CEE. You should do your work not blaming the citizens what is the politicians problems. No country should be above others, because of money, we all know what money brings….. pretty straight. Or we are all equal and united, or we are all wasting our lives fulfilling SOMEONE’S DREAM. Not this citizens dreams.

    Plus, progress should not be grown industrially. EU should respect more our nature. Stop making WARS!!!! STOP THAT!!!! SOLVE THE PROBLEMS YOU ARE CAUSING WITH THE REFUGEES. HOW MANY YEARS TO SOLVE THIS?????? IT’S JUST UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

    Politicians want respect!?!? THEY MUST EARN IT.

    “Let me be clear – no one is above the law. Not a politician, not a priest, not a criminal, not a police officer. We are all accountable for our actions.” ~ Antonio Villaraigosa

    • avatar

      @Andre, sadly not true. I wish it were, but in the UK we had something called “the expenses scandal” within this it was found that vast numbers of our politicians were guilty f fraudulent expense claims, many adding up to tens, and even hundreds of thousands of pounds. If I’d have defrauded the government of ten grand, I’d be serving time in prison. If I’d stolen from work and been caught I could guarantee I’d get the sack. Politicians it seems get neither of these. Politicians it seems can apologise and the government will forgive them. One law for them, one law for everyone else.

    • avatar

      @Duncan I understand your point of view, but in fact i was referring to my reality, Portugal where the banks defrauded and bankrupt, they broke with 40 000 000 000 de Euros, the politician and the other entities, like the biggest ISP called PT comunicações, mixed with your almost jailed prime minister, the loss of 900 Millions because of “OI” telecomunication in Brazil. and so on… They were all vultures. They robbed the people, with the greed and connivance of the ruling political class. There was my sense of responsibility, authority supervising nothing. It’s totally amazing. Not to mention also, when a country most politicians are lawyers companies, help in the award of public works for companies of friends. So goes the prevarication and the naked corruption, in the face of the people. Then comes the troika and is the middle class and the poor as Muggles, because it forces everyone to pay even HIGHER taxes. The politicians, the banker, thieves continue their life. As if nothing had happened to them. It is at least ridiculous !.

      How on earth can someone trust this shameful “elite”? Plus it’s just crazy see them. Blaming others. Times changes and people are Aware, and UE acts like over analyzing what it is Obvious….

      We just received another bad news from IMF, more and more, UE cut founds and we are done, over, caput finit. Also thanks to this politicians.

      Durão Barroso is another one to bite the dust. Another one how thinks he is the lord of this and the other world. Playing the victim, with the other shameful company goldman sucks….. You got it. I guess.

      Sorry my english, not native. :) Cheers mate.

  23. avatar
    Andre Lopes

    Why ask if they never listen… politicians are too selfish, they are not “servers” of the citizens, they use power to corrupt the system. Why ask if we live this hell, decades…. Why vote if there is a potential theft behind promises.

    I guess you where citizens before become politicians and bureaucrats, you can find the answers in your heart.

  24. avatar
    Paul X

    All they need to do is remember that they serve the people of their country not rule over them..

    • avatar

      Don’t put that idea in their heads. They’d do it!

  25. avatar
    Ingrid Hilario

    I think the first step would be complete transparency, so voters can really find out what goes on and react to it. Limiting outside income for politicians would also be a good step. Including limits on contributions to a party. A tally on every vote for every politician, easily accessible would give voters a quick and easy way to sort out who they want to vote for.

    • avatar

      I think if they were transparent in their dealings as politicians, so that everyone could see what they’re doing it would result in far less trust (because how can you trust someone when you can see proof of their untrustworthiness?). What they need to do is there actual jobs, listen to what the people they represent want and actively try to implement that. What we have in the UK is a parliament hell bent on being able to vote to ignore the referendum result because their personal opinion is they wanted to remain in the EU. And apparently in their twisted view of the world, it would be undemocratic and totalitarian of Theresa May to prevent them from being able to! 20 years ago I’d have not believed you if you told me a Tory MP would be more willing to listen to the will of the people than the Labour party or liberal democrat party, how times have changed . . . . . . . .

  26. avatar
    Ivan Dimitrov


  27. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    They should work in the real-world – not in politics or PR for at least 5 years before becoming a politician.

    They should try to bring specialist skills or knowledge to the political arena.

    They should only hold posts they are work-qualified or qualification-qualified for – if they haven’t worked as a medic they should NOT be a Health MP/MEP.

    Their finances must be available for scrutiny by the public 24x7x365.

    Their private lives should NOT be private whilst in office.

    They should be made multi-millionaires if they report on corruption by their colleagues.

    They should undergo full MRI lie detection examination by an independent body twice a year.

  28. avatar
    Bódis Kata

    Less lying, less warmongering, less extremism in public policies.

    The EU currently suffers from liberalextremism, and balance has to be restored, soon.
    All colors of extremism are harmful to society if allowed to proliferate and determine public policy. Europe had been destroyed by right and left extremism in the past, now it’s getting destroyed by liberalextremism. The consequences will be grave.

  29. avatar
    Paul Cavanagh

    In the case of the EU, a return of trust simple cannot happen. When Political influence from a foreign Country is allowed to control your own Governments policy, then where can the trust begin. 28 Countries making laws that effect all regardless, stupid and no longer acceptable.

  30. avatar
    catherine benning

    The answer to this thread is, watch this BBC2 programme and you will see just how to become a legitimate politician again. Believe in yourself and the vision you have. And believe in it with integrity, leaving all to the wayside, other than what is the ‘best’ solution for ‘your’ country and those who vote for you.

    Nigel, I bow my head to you. You were right all along. I would never have thought in 2008 that I would come to your position on our need for separation from the Europe I loved, as I wrote so many times on the previous forum to this.

    However, now I see you as a great politician and made of material the English always throw away. Now, I am certain of it, just as Trump is.

    • avatar

      @Catherine, if I were you I’d remain a little more sceptical with regards to Nigel (I assume you mean Farage) and definitely more analytical of Donald Trump. Donald Trump has on several occasions changed his mind, that at the very least means you’re never sure what policies he actually stands for, at worst it means he is willing to say anything necessary to obtain a position of power. Anybody that determined to take power cannot be trusted with it, neither frankly can someone who simply changes their minds so often. No telling what they might do. I’m not actually citing Hillary as a good option, but in this system of democracy we are only given a few choices (In the US, only two that will ever get picked) and frankly as the lesser of two evils Hillary is at least the devil we know. Her brand of politics may be despicable in it’s own ways, but we already know in what ways, we already know we can actually keep living with Hillary as the US president. I cannot say for certain if Trump would push the big red button for lolz or not, I cannot say for certain if he’d antagonise Russia or if he’s in cahoots with Putin and would actually leave Europe alone to face any future Russian aggressions. Donald Trump is the biggest wildcard in politics since Oliver Cromwell.

  31. avatar
    catherine benning

    @ Duncan.

    I am sceptical of all politicians, However, Farage, has remained loyal to his cause and the people who voted for him. He cut us free from European destroyers. And any man who can do that through the kind of barrage he was put through is a man who deserves acknowledgement. There are very few of them left.

    You misunderstood my comment on Trump. ~That line simply meant Trump realised ~Farage was a rare man in today’s world. However, he, Trump, could not spot it in Nigel unless he admired that principle in a man. Which indicates that he sees himself as doing what has to be done.

    I am in no way a Republican, but, if I was an American there is absolutely no way I would condemn my country to the sick, mad woman they have picked to be the first female leader of their country. She is a fraud in every way.

    Trump is not fraudulent, you get what you pay for with him. And as he is an enigma who can possibly know if he has the material needed for the job he wants. I certainly am not pretending he is any saint. I am sure he has changed his mind on many issues. He therefore is not robotic or brainwashed into the party line. Good signs in my book. The last thing the world needs is another politically correct lube job.

    So, as there is only the two of them to choose, my choice would remain with Trump. Anything but Hilary is my mantra.

    As a footnote, I would have liked Bernie Sanders, but, he didn’t have the guts to face the threats of the Globalists in Clinton’s camp. The Donald is the must man of today. He is putting his life on the line for his fellow man. And he knows it.

    • avatar
      Ingrid Hilario

      I think there should be a rule for politicians that more than one bankruptcy, and more than one conviction you should be disqualified to stand for office. I have lived in New York through one (not the first) of Trumps more or less fraudulent bankruptcies. I don’t care how many wives he has had or how much he has cheated on them, but I care about all the people who have been cheated out of their money with all his schemes. If he is going to run a country the way he runs his businesses there is big trouble ahead. I see Hillary Clinton as the least of two evils. But this does not really have anything to do with what European politicians should do to be more legitimate in the eyes of their citizens…

    • avatar

      @Catherine, we’ll have to agree to disagree with regards to the American political choices. I stand by my opinion neither is a good option, but that trump is a terrible option.
      As for Oliver Cromwell, I wasn’t rebuking his politics (although many of his stances I would disagree with) merely pointing out that when he became a member of parliament, nobody would have expected him to become dictator of England (and through proxy, wales scotland and Ireland) ergo wildcard.
      @Ingrid, you are quite right we’ve drifted off topic. Apologies for the part I played in this.

  32. avatar

    As an attempt to remedy this deviation. I would stipulate that the abolishment of the political party system would be one way to go. Have a separate vote for prime minister, chancellor etc. Based on a set of manifestos they will be obligated to stick to. And a vote for your constituency’s candidate for member of parliament etc. Their job will be to listen to the political will of their area and vote in government according to this will of the people. No more forced towing of “the party line” no more betrayal of the electorate like happened with the liberal democrats when they allied themselves with the conservatives despite very different manifestos, effectively miss representing the votes they won by ignoring the motives of those voting for them (and now Nick Clegg is going around pretending it never happened, just like he wants to pretend the referendum never happened. Seriously if I live to be a thousand I’ll never trust the lib Dems again. If it hadn’t been for my protest spoiling of my ballot in outcry against the expenses scandal I’d have voted for them, effectively voting through proxy for David Cameron. That thought makes my skin crawl!) and I think most important of all of the benefits this system will bring is direct will of the public being the driving force of policy. Nobody for less ethical businesses to bribe.

  33. avatar
    catherine benning

    @ Duncan:

    I do not feel we have drifted off topic at all or in any way. The analysis of what is happening in the US today, with two people running with little observed integrity, to be the so called ‘leader of the free world’ is an accurate example of what is spuriously illegitimate. Following such a lead is the very ‘opposite’ of earning back legitimacy on any part of the planet. An example of what is dire to us all.

    And by far, Clinton is most culpable between the two, because, she has been fiddling throughout the offices she has held. Not as a private individual but through the peoples largesse. Therefore, rather than future change, good or bad, we can only expect further destruction of our civilisation, via power mad individuals given a mandate they do not deserve.

    Turning a blind eye to an unacceptable criminal fraudster is okay for the US population to accept and through it, get what they deserve. It is the rest of the world that must not find this acceptable for their future.

    Holding your nose and voting Democrat is not the answer to Europe or the UK. Trump is an unknown. Except he appears to be disconnected from the globalists who are destroying our lives. Therefore, the planet can ‘hope’ for change for the better. With Clinton there is no chance at all.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      It seems, the DE has closed, is blocking & deleting any new comments- sorry!

  34. avatar
    Ingrid Hilario

    Catherine. I beg to disagree. I think that with Clinton you get more of the same, which is what we are used to. But with Trump we don’t know. So far you are right. But with Trump’s track record as a private citizen and ‘business man’ (read con man) we also know that whatever he does isn’t good. He is all for himself and not for the common good. Even puncturing his own war chest for the election for private gain.

  35. avatar
    catherine benning

    EU reform- proactive

    What makes you think that?

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      …..because, all my (too) critical comments against the Clinton establishment where & are deemed as too uncorrect! “Freedom” of DE comment threshold breached- sorry!

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      to add: Trump is predicted to surprise all like Brexit did!

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      a clip: Clinton’s recorded threat- announcing that their “progress and their values”- are not to be halted, but need to be tolerated by “ALL” (regime change & “nuclear option is always on the table”) is very frightening! Even China & Russia will pay a “price”; “we came, we saw- he died- ha, ha, ha, ha (Qaddafi)- is so easily flowing over her lips.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      a clip: Doesn’t such arrogance & cold bloodiness- which this (partly) disgraced politician (Clinton Foundation, email saga, etc) “trump” even a local business demeanor by an unstoppable Trump?

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      ……………looks like I exhausted their patience once more- end of “road”.

  36. avatar
    Ingrid Hilario

    I read the newspapers. I lived in the US a long time ago.

  37. avatar

    :) @Ingrid Hilario the @Catherine Benning question was to a user called @EU reform- proactive *grins*

    ps: At least I read someone that does not dive into Dump(trump) paranoia.

  38. avatar

    I think that big business has easier access to politicians through lobbyists, whilst constituents are often left in the dark. Politicians should create a structure where they have a constant 2-way flow of information with their constituents. They should then be brave enough to break ranks with their Party’s official position if this is what their constituents want. They need to remember that they are elected by their constituents in order to represent THEM at the national or European level. Politicians should never assume that they know best. If they disagree with their constituents, they should at least explain why, and if necessary vote against their better judgement and according to the wishes of their constituents.

  39. avatar
    catherine benning

    Here is a good way for politicians to remain illegitimate, with no way back to office.

    However, in my country presently it appears even human trafficking is acceptable to our members of Parliament.

    They even have the gall to tell the public to be compassionate towards this human trafficking MP and let him keep his job speaking on behalf of us all. Our country has gone to the dogs. And Rabid dogs at that. His Leicestershire constituency should have had him out the very next day he was caught at it under and no confidence vote. But, no, he is still in there, using the voter to keep up his unanswerable money tree.

    Yet after telling us of this man’s human trafficking experience, our media, via the push of our political careerists, had the gall to tell us he should be pitied by us all because his wife is willing to turn a blind eye, well then, so should we.

    Forget the fact he knew these boys were being pimped from Eastern Europe, or, that having unsafe sex may contaminate the wife he has lied to for decades, with AIDS. Forget all that because he is an ethnic gay man and should be forgiven, keep his job and left to do it again another day. As long as we don’t find out about it.

    Our parliament is suffering from satanic deviants in the hundreds.

  40. avatar

    I do not see much of an event brought about by this high-level round table represented in part by “nominated” rather than elected representatives. So far the decision making process at EU level has long been marred by each and any individual position and interests of Member States sometimes represented by extremists/populists and a “nominated elite”; that aims to divert the attention of citizens by bring about a narrative where unspecified and abstract EU bureaucracy or bureaucrats are the major culprit. We cannot do without the EU but we have to change rampant nationalism which is bringing us to nowhere.
    However I would really consider and balance a debate bringing in representatives from the European Parliament and the Civil Society but also from other smaller groups not the same international organisations, although respectable of course.

  41. avatar
    Cris Popa

    To earn trust, one needs 2 basic ingredients: consistency and knowledge. However… The information flow is “disrupted” since social media and citizens receive and perceive reality in a different way. Because of this, policy transparency is added to the ingredients list for trust.

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.